Fox Valley basketball season in 2017-18 was indescribable
Picking the right words to describe the high school basketball season for the Fox Valley area isn't easy.
Put the first letter of each word together and it spells … impact.
The 2017-2018 basketball season made a great impact on several of our local schools and communities, especially Aurora, Burlington, Carpentersville, Elgin and Geneva.
Both the girls and boys basketball campaigns were stretched to the ultimate final day of their respective Class 4A state tournaments.
Earlier this month, Geneva pulled off a rare repeat with its 28-26 girls basketball state championship victory over Montini in Normal.
Stephanie Hart, who made the game-winning basket in the final seconds of the Vikings' 41-40 state championship victory over Edwardsville as a junior a year ago, enjoyed another magical moment as she knocked down a 14-foot baseline jumper with 3 seconds remaining to help lift Geneva (31-3) to a 28-26 title triumph over Montini on March 3.
Despite the graduation loss of 6-foot-2 center Grace Loberg, who played a major role during the team's first title run last season, the Vikings transformed into a guard-oriented group on their way to an improbable state title defense.
Coach Sarah Meadows didn't give away any trade secrets when I spoke with her on the first official day of practice on Oct. 30.
"I didn't want to put any more pressure on my players but I always felt like we could return to state," Meadows said after Geneva's 54-42 supersectional win over previously unbeaten Rockford Boylan.
While history was made in Geneva, the history books needed to be scrutinized in Elgin where Larkin capped a record-breaking season with a fourth-place finish during last weekend's Class 4A boys state basketball tournament in Peoria.
Coach Deryn Carter's Royals became the first team in school history to advance to a state final basketball tournament and were the first team from the city to reach the state semifinals since Elgin in 1955.
Anchored by Upstate Eight River player of the year Anthony Lynch and 6-10 senior center Jalen Shaw, Larkin capped its final season in the UEC River by capturing the conference championship before earning its fourth regional crown in six years and fifth sectional title in 13 years.
Larkin (24-10) hung tough with eventual state champion Belleville West during last Friday's 64-53 semifinal loss before ending its season with Saturday's 61-49 consolation game loss to Evanston.
Larkin displayed its toughness throughout the season with the ability to win the close ones. The Royals finished with a remarkable 15-3 record in games decided by 10 points or less, including a sparkling 5-0 mark in the postseason.
Aurora had plenty of cause for its own celebration this season thanks to the stellar play of Aurora Christian and West Aurora.
Led by the Wolfe brothers -- Jake and Will -- Aurora Christian began the season by winning its first 21 games and earned status as the state's top-ranked team in Class 1A.
Although the Eagles' season came to an end following their 63-54 sectional title loss to Annawan, coach Dan Beebe's squad provided plenty of thrills during its 25-2 campaign.
At West Aurora, Jared Crutcher and Camron Donatlan led the Blackhawks to a 25-5 record and second straight UEC Valley title. Coach Brian Johnson's team captured the school's 42nd regional crown en route to a berth in a 4A supersectional.
In Burlington, Central's Rockets established a program-record, 28-win season that included the school's first Class 3A regional title in 10 years -- an 89-78 victory over Montini.
Senior Zach Schutta finished his 4-year varsity career as the Rockets' all-time leading scorer as coach Brett Porto guided the team to its first Sweet 16 finish.
In Carpentersville, Dundee-Crown (17-13) enjoyed its first winning season in five years, capped by the Chargers' back-to-back 4A tournament upsets of St. Charles East (57-54 in OT) and Jacobs (45-40) -- the latter clinching their first regional title since 2009.
Roosevelt tough: Roosevelt University's men's basketball team recently wrapped up its most successful season in school history thanks in part to the play of former area standouts Jake Ludwig (STC North), Jake Asquini (STC East) and Chandler Fuzak (Geneva).
Ludwig, a junior guard who became the program's first player to earn NAIA Division II Honorable Mention all-American honors, averaged a team-high 17.2 points and 5.5 assists per game.
Fellow junior guard Asquini averaged 6 points while hitting 40 percent (59 of 146) of his 3-point attempts, and Fuzak, a 6-9 junior forward, averaged 6.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Roosevelt finished with a school-record 26 wins and earned its first berth in the NAIA Division II National Championship held earlier this month in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Craig Brueske can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org